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against the foot of the granite wall, and then slowly
ascended the hill leading to Red Square. The lime-trees
in the asphalted streets and squares were in bloom, and
amidst the simple, sweet-smelling blossoms in their clipped
crowns bees were busily humming, completely ignor-
ing the horns of passing automobiles, the clanging and
rattling of street-cars and the shimmering, petrol-furue-
laden haze that arose from the heated asphalt.
So this is Moscow!
After four months in hospital, Alexei was so amazed
by this summer magnificence that he did not, at first,
notice that the capital was in war garb and in the state of
"readiness No. 1", as they called it in the Air Force, that
is to say, ready to rise to meet the enemy at any moment.
The wide street near the bridge was blocked by a big,
ugly barricade consisting of log squares filled with sand:
looking like toy cubes left on the table by a child, square,
concrete gun emplacements with four embrasures towered
at the corners of the bridge. On the grey surface of Red
Square, houses, lawns and avenues were painted in dif-
ferent colours. The shop windows in Gorky Street were
boarded up and protected with sandbags, and in the lanes,
also looking like playthings abandoned by children, lay
rusty "hedgehogs" made from rails. A soldier from the
front, particularly one who had not been in Moscow be-
fore, would not see anything extraordinary in this. The
only things that might have surprised him were the TASS
windows, looking down at passers-by from walls, and
shop windows, and the queer way in which the fronts of
some of the houses were painted, reminding one of the
absurd futurist pictures.
Fairly tired by now, Meresyev, with creaking boots,
and leaning more heavily on his stick, walked up Gorky
Street, looking round for and amazed not to find bomb
pits and craters, wrecked buildings, gaping spaces and
shattered windows. Having served in one of the most
westerly airfields he had been accustomed to hear wave
after wave of German bombers flying eastward over his
dugout almost every night. Before the sounds of one wave
had died out in the distance another would come rolling
over, and sometimes the sky would be roaring all night.
The airmen knew that the fascists were making for Mos-